Down Time

I think how you choose to spend your free time says a lot about you. Some people train for a triathlon, some people play video games, some people watch excessive amounts of TV. I knew a guy who seemed to think he could live life vicariously through the characters of TV shows. That made me sad for him.

My boyfriend pointed out to me, that if you ask me how my day has been I don’t say “good”, I say “productive”. It’s true. Achieving things is how I define my worth, and I have very little “down time” because every day is mapped out in advance, in terms of things I want to achieve. This has been the way that I have to work – in order to get through grad school, in order to retain some semblance of balance in my life.

On Friday night, I was walking home from dinner with friends thinking about my goals for the upcoming week and what I want to achieve the following day. Near home, it occurs to me that I could take the day off – I have no pressing deadlines (the conference deadline has been extended) and next week’s list will consist mostly of things that can take little time, or lots, depending on my energy levels, inspiration, and (to an extent), luck.

So I took the day off. I played Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for a while, and got further than I ever have before, and then I settled down to read a book. Specifically, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (Amazon). I’ve read this book before, which may seem bizarre as I’m very much an atheist, however despite the talk of “God” and religion… this is really a book about a woman coming to terms with herself. I can definitely identify with that. The feelings of inadequacy, of failure. The guilt over taking time to just be. And I remember the times that I felt most happy, most peaceful (with myself) were probably in China. When I climbed the steps 5 times (Friday afternoon cardio exercise) and descended alone, with the sun. The time we spent a whole day hiking up and down a hill, sometimes I was with someone else, sometimes I was alone – and that was okay. In Canada, first thing in the morning, being the first person to descend my favorite black run – air cold against my face and in my lungs. Empowered. Exhilarated. Free.

Grad school can so lonely. I don’t work closely with anyone, I work from home sometimes, but sometimes in an empty office. And yet, when I had a free choice, what does Cate want to do today, I chose to spend my day alone, reading about finding peace with oneself. And I realized – it was the most purely focused I’d been on one task in a while. I wonder, what does that say about me?

Credit: flickr / ihtatho

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